“We are not in favour of aiding and abetting drug users in any way.”
“We are tired of homeless, druggies, garbage and break ins!!… Obviously these people won’t want help or they would be in the programs already offered.”
“I am completely and strongly opposed to safe injection sites…”
These and dozens of other strongly worded comments from the community were received by the City of Red Deer received in response to feedback forms about possible stops for a mobile supervised drug injection site.
Safe Harbour Society director Kath Hoffman said she ‘gets’ these public sentiments.
“I don’t think these people are being mean. They’re just saying, ‘We’re fed up’ ” — with needle debris, crime, panhandling and public disturbance.
“I don’t want all that in my backyard either,” added Hoffman. “It’s just that there’s nothing else to offer them (drug addicts).”
While many people are calling for a local drug treatment centre, the province isn’t yet funding one. “You’ve got to give them something or just let them die off…. and if we’re going to do something, then what kind of something?” asked Hoffman.
On Monday, Red Deer city council approved a bylaw allowing a safe injection trailer to operate in the city and stop at two locations — Safe Harbour mat program parking lot at 5246 53rd Ave. and the Red Deer hospital parking lot at 3942 50A Ave.
So far, no local agency has filed an application to operate a mobile SCS. Turning Point’s executive-director Stacy Carmichael is out of town and could not be reached for comment.
Hoffman supports Carmichael, who wants open a permanent SCS. While a mobile SCS is better than nothing, the two women don’t think it’s adequate for Red Deer’s opioid crisis.
Noting a permanent site is the best-practise model, Hoffman fears a trailer could create exactly the kind of disturbances that are feared: Drug addicts would line up outside to take their turn at one of two supervised injection cubicles, creating the potential for neighbourhood problems.
With a permanent SCS, clients wait inside. Hoffman said workers build relationships with drug users, which could potentially lead them towards getting help.
Coun. Dianne Wyntjes affirmed her support for a permanent SCS at Monday’s meeting.
The problem continues to be where would it be located? As many Red Deerians have stated: they don’t want it downtown or near businesses or residences.
Hoffman will discuss having the mobile unit stop at the Safe Harbour parking lot with her board — if an application for a SCS trailer is submitted to the city.
“We are now waiting for an application,” said Erin Stuart, the city’s inspections and licensing manager. Because there are public concerns about safety and loitering, Stuart said when an application is received, conditions can be imposed on the license, including hours of SCS operation, when the trailer must leave the site, security and clean-up measures.